Triumph, Tragedy at Ascot

By June 22, 2013
Grey horse Lethal Force crosses the finish line at Ascot.

Lethal Force and Adam Kirby cross the finish line first at Ascot's Diamond Jubilee Stakes. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)

The Royal Ascot meet drew to a close with a joyous victory by Lethal Force in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes, but tragedy too as Thomas Chippendale died at the finish line in the earlier Hardwicke Stakes.

The cause of death is believed to be a heart-attack for the four-year-old colt for whom it was the second win at the June 18-22 meet in Ascot, just West of London.

“I’m heartbroken,” said Lady Jane Cecil, who trained Thomas Chippendale, owned by Sir Robert Ogden.

Jockey Johnny Murtagh, who had his fourth win of the week on Chippendale, told reporters afterward that the horse “ran his heart out and was pulled up at the line. He lost his balance and I don’t know what happened to him. It should have been such a great win. It’s just devastating, the way it finished.”

It was the second tragedy in a row for Cecil, who lost her husband, Sir Henry, to a long battle with cancer only last week.

Earlier in that same race, which was run just after a rain, the 9-4 favorite, Ektihaam, skidded on the wet surface and suffered a nasty fall. Ektihaam ran the rest of the race loose and jockey Paul Hanagan was taken to the hospital for x-rays, but neither was seriously injured. Marco Botti, trainer of the second-place Dandino, summed it up as “a very messy race.”

The Royal Ascot meet got off to a smashing start on Tuesday, with a win for Ireland’s Sole Power and Murtagh winning the first Grade I race of the meet, the King’s Stand Stakes, on June 18. The horse, trained by Edward Lynam was third last year in the same race, a global sprint challenge.

Saturday’s Diamond Jubilee Stakes winner, Lethal Force, is a four-year-old grey colt trained by Clive Cox, ridden by Adam Kirby and owned by Alan Craddock and his son Robin.

Lethal Force grabbed and early lead and never let go, besting favorite Society Rock, who was second. “We’re very fortunate,” said Alan Craddock, noting that he purchased the horse for just $10,500, calling Cox  a “master trainer.”

The superstar U.S. horse Animal Kingdom failed on Tuesday in his bid to win the last race of his career, Ascot’s Queen Anne Stakes, the first race of the meet. The USA’s Declaration of War won. The War Front offspring is trained by Aidan O’Brien and was ridden by his son Joseph.

Queen Elizabeth is a regal sight in a lavender coat and hat at Royal Ascot.

Queen Elizabeth attends her 68th consecutive Royal Ascot meet. (Photo by Alan Crowhurst/Getty Images for Ascot Racecourse)

The Graham Motion-trained Animal Kingdom, a five-year-old ridden by Johnny Velazquez,  finished 11th in a field of 13. He now retires to Arrowfield Stud in Australia for his first breeding season for owners Team Valor International.

Meanwhile, history was made on Thursday as Queen Elizabeth became the first sitting monarch in the 207-year history of Royal Ascot to own the winner of the meet’s signature race when her Estimate won the Gold Cup.

The New York Times reported that Queen Elizabeth has attended Ascot every year without fail since 1945. “That perfect attendance record, along with 22 victories, is evidence enough that she takes Thoroughbred racing seriously,” the Times reported, noting that so do the Irish, “the French, Australian, South African and yes, American horsemen who converge here each June for what is truly an international festival.”

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